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Women status in politics in Pukhtoon culture

Palwasha Abbas

Palwasha Abbas

Worldwide a trend is seen in changing status of women in leading political roles .World super power USA has a woman in run for presidential elections, for the most powerful seat of world. Hillary clinton run for presidential seat is a sign that women are getting acceptance worldwide in political roles. Pakistan had the privilege of electing Benazir Bhutto twice as prime minister of the state.

Women right is given recognition by state by providing specific (reserved seats) for women in parliament on central and provincial level in Pakistan. But is working in a political field in leadership role easy for us in a conservative Pukhtoon society? Unfortunately not. Being a political worker I have personally faced many challenges, specially in rural Pakhtoonkwa. Working in field is not at all an easy task for us. Prime reason for this is the cultural and traditional norms along with the recent wave of militancy and extremism in the belt. Its even a hard task for women in many areas of rural pakhtoonkwa to cast their votes in elections. Manywomen in rural Pakhtoonkwa are even deprive of their CNICS. Though many in urban areas have no issue in attending Jalsas and political gatherings but for many attending such gatherings is out of question. Taking out women in rural areas for political jalsas is a big challenge for us always in my view the traditional values and the lack of confidence for encouraging women by families is the main reason behind this practice.

Other big reason is wave of extremism in our Pakhtoon belt which is limiting women to boundary wall of their homes due to seen unseen threats. Recently, I have conducted a political gathering in my native village. It’s a conservative area where traditions are valued like a religion. From minor to major, most arrangements and management were done by me, as the gathering was in hujra so as usual I got constant calls and messages from Masheran (elders) of my village that now as every thing is formalized and arranged nothing much left, now it would be good if I stay inside home and they will manage rest of conduct. I was not at all surprised as it was expected in male dominated conservative society. But I asked them one question, “Are women sitting in a separate parliament?” Do they have a separate hall in provincial assembly? If not then why should I not participate in this gathering which is totally organized by my efforts. They might have got my point and I not only attended jalsa but spoke on the occasion just to get acceptance for women in future and give a message that we women equally deserve to be given recognition in political field. I have also seen that mainly political gatherings culturally and traditionally are over powered and dominated by males. Women political workers and leaders no matter how intelligent and politically mature they are, but are limited to the role of observer and audience, men are talking on behalf of them and talking about their rights. The thing here is that for how long will we not give women their deserved respect and recognition in political and democratic process. In this regard a major responsibility lies on shoulder of elected women parlimentarians and women post holders of political parties to work for betterment of political rights and roles of women in political field. They should work practically in field for improvement of women political status in Pakhtoonkwa, where many can’t cast vote, can’t participate in political gatherings and even many have no CNICS. Planning for these women unaware about their genuine rights should not be limited to seminars and meetings in five and seven starts hotels but going to these women and reaching out for sorting out their, problems can give us solution. I personally mostly am working in rural areas most of the time but even cooperation is lacked along with encouragement from own organization most of the time. Working in political field in conditions like ours (Pukhttonkwa ,FATA) for women is like a tuff challenge but still we are trying and struggling slowly for our rights. Today I am alone with a very few other who are working in true sense for political roles of women, but I am hopeful that tomorrow I might have a big number of my sisters working along with fellow brothers in more prominent, challenging and leadership roles on the soil of Pakhtoonkwa.

By Palwasha Abbas

The writer is an information secretary of NYO (ANP), a blogger and a social worker. She can be reached at



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